Globally, about one in three women will be beaten, raped or otherwise abused during her lifetime.
Recent events in the United States shine a spotlight on how pervasive sexual assault and harassment are in our culture. The hostility and disregard toward women who report they were sexually assaulted by Judge Brett Kavanaugh speaks to a much deeper issue of entitlement, fear and suspicion toward the feminine.
Like the majority of women who have been sexually assaulted, I did not report my rape to the police. I was a teenager and it was a date gone terribly wrong. I could not see at first past the terror and shame the incident triggered in me. I threw myself into my studies in a misguided attempt to hide from my feelings and prove I had power and worth. For a while, I shaved my head and acted boyish because I had so much unarticulated rage and grief at being a girl. Coming to terms with being raped, and making peace with being a woman, have taken me years.
As an adult, I testified as the primary witness in an attempted murder trial, after a strangling almost cost me my life. The lawyer for the defense asked questions designed to undermine and discredit me. At one point, he posed a convoluted and manipulative question to which I could only respond, “There are three different questions here. Which would you like me to answer first?” I felt everyone in the courtroom sit stunned for a moment. I had caught the trickiness in the question and was not willing to play along. As he continued to try to smear my character, I finally blurted out, “I am not sure which century I am in. Is this a witch hunt?” Having the courage to stand up for truth in this case led to the strangler being charged. Yet, I sensed I would face a steeper challenge if I ever sought to prosecute my rape.
As our society becomes increasingly polarized and antagonistic, I believe there is a real need for humble, open-minded willingness to understand others instead of leaping to ignorant or dismissive conclusions. This is especially true when it comes to violence against women. Just as I had to let go of my denial and face the painful truth that I had been raped, we need to address our collective denial of the extent to which women are not respected. We have come a long way in a short period of time towards equality between men and women in societies around the world. But there still remains a lot of work to be done in our minds and hearts so we can see each other as true equals.
No one is untouched by the love of a woman. All of human life emerges from her body. Whether or not our relationship with our biological mother was close or deep, we can be grateful to our mothers at least for carrying us for nine months and going through the physical pain to bring us into this life.
I believe that cultures have feared throughout his-story a sacred power within a woman’s body, a profound link to the Earth and a force that keeps life in balance. I believe both men and women misunderstand and mistrust it even today.
Around the world, we value the yang qualities of productivity, willpower and exertion. We tend to take from the Earth what we can, without considering the consequences or giving back. Yet yin’s power of softness, yielding, openness, is what great masters ultimately teach. There is no black belt martial artist who can master his craft if he does not embody yin as well as yang. If we can learn to soften, open, receive, listen and commune, it seems to me many wars would be prevented, lives would be saved, injustices would be halted and our world would be a far healthier place.
Both men and women can learn that there is a deeper power, greater than pushing and conquering. In profound surrender to the force of Nature and to life itself, and without fighting, women hold within their biology the power of a revolution to transform our world. Let’s listen and embrace it.
Parvati is an award-winning musician (I Am Light, Electro Yog, Yoga In The Nightclub), yogini (YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine), author (Aonani of Avalon, Three Supreme Secrets for Lasting Happiness) and founder of the not-for-profit Parvati.org. All her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS). More info: parvati.tv; parvati.org.